Starting next year across the country, rape victims too afraid or too ashamed to go to police can undergo an emergency-room forensic rape exam, and the evidence gathered will be kept on file in a sealed envelope in case they decide to press charges. The new federal requirement that states pay for “Jane Doe rape kits” is aimed at removing one of the biggest obstacles to prosecuting rape cases: Some women are so traumatized they don’t come forward until it is too late to collect hair, semen or other samples, reports the Associated Press.
“Sometimes the issue of actually having to make a report to police can be a barrier to victims, and this will allow that barrier to cease, to allow the victim to think about it before deciding whether to talk to police,” said Carey Goryl, executive director of the International Association of Forensic Nurses. The practice is already followed at some health clinics, colleges and hospitals around the country and by the state of Massachusetts. But many other jurisdictions refuse to cover the estimated $800 cost of a forensic rape exam unless the victim files a police report. Beginning in 2009, states will have to pay for Jane Doe rape kits to continue receiving funding under the federal Violence Against Women Act, which provides tax dollars for women’s shelters and law enforcement training.